Phipps v Rochester Corporation [1955] 1 QB 450

Tort law – Negligence – Liability for injury


Two children passed across grassland which was part of a building site located on a housing estate that was in the process of being developed by the defendants. The developers had dug a deep trench for the purposes of sewage for the houses and the boy, aged five, fell in and broke his leg. The children lived locally and were in the habit of using the land to which the defendants had not taken any steps to prevent from happening. Importantly, there was no evidence that the children went to the site unaccompanied. There was a claim brought on behalf of the boy claiming for damages for the injury he sustained.


The legal issue, in this case, was whether the Corporation was liable for the injury caused to the injured child. It was particularly important to weigh to whether the children's parents were to blame for the incident or whether the blame fell to the defendant corporation for not rectifying the trespass or protecting against the damage to the children.


Children, as a class of stakeholder, were impliedly licenced to play on grasslands. The court considered the trench to hold danger that children would not have foreseen. However, the licensee was entitled to take into account that the children’s parents would not permit their children to play without protection in such an area. On this basis, it was held that the developer was not under a duty to take steps to reduce the danger. The responsibility rested primarily on the parents.